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O’Dowd encourages parents to help their children discover the joy of reading

Reading is not just a vital skill it can open up a world of fun, imagination and learning for children and young people.
Tuesday, 8 October 2013

That was the message from Education Minister John O’Dowd as he helped distribute Bookstart Treasure Packs to nursery school children and their parents today.

The Department of Education has been providing funding to the Bookstart Programme for 10 years and this year £250,000 has been allocated which will enable Bookstart Baby and Bookstart Treasure packs to be gifted to over 50,000 children and their families. The packs will be distributed to all nursery schools, nursery units and pre-school providers over the next two months.

Speaking at the launch of this year’s programme in Monkstown Nursery School the Minister said: “I often talk about how important reading and writing skills are for our young people – for learning, future job prospects and in our everyday lives.

“But reading is something children should enjoy and want to do. It has been shown that children who read for pleasure perform better than those who don’t. Reading can be great fun. Books, nursery rhymes, whatever it happens to be, are great ways of fuelling a young child’s imagination.

“Yesterday saw the start of Children’s Book Week 2013 which is also promoted by Booktrust. This is another excellent initiative that celebrates reading for pleasure. I would encourage our primary schools to engage with this initiative for the benefit of their pupils’ literacy skills.”

The Minister continued: “The work being done by Booktrust complements the initiatives and policies put in place by my Department to raise standards and tackle educational inequalities and underachievement.

“One of these key initiatives is the Education Works campaign which aims to show parents and families that doing some simple things can help their child to do better at school.

“Parental involvement from early in a child’s life can have benefits much later on. For example, a study of 15 year olds showed that those whose parents had read to them often in P1 did much better at school than those whose parents did not. The second year of the campaign has recently launched and this time we are also encouraging other family members to support parents in this vital piece of work.

“The Treasure pack, which is being gifted to all pre-school pupils over the next few weeks, is an excellent resource that parents, or perhaps grandparents or other family members, can use to read with the children in their care.

“This year the pack also includes a leaflet about the Education Works campaign. I would encourage parents and families to get involved in their child’s education. The message is simple – you really can make a difference.”

The Minister concluded by commending the Principal and staff of Monkstown Nursery school. He said: “A recent inspection of Monkstown Nursery School found the standard of education in the school to be outstanding in all areas.

“In the inspection report, language development was reported to be a particular strength. It is clear that the children here are given every opportunity to develop their early language skills and an interest in books. That is something that I want to see repeated in all our schools.

“I want to take this opportunity to commend the Principal Hazel Armstrong, the staff, the governors, parents and families connected with the school on this outstanding achievement.”

Viv Bird, CEO of Booktrust was also in attendance at the event. She said: “In the last 10 years Bookstart in Northern Ireland has gone from strength to strength. I would like to thank our funders the Department of Education and all our partners in health, education and libraries whose continued support has enabled children here to receive fabulous book parcels to take home as they start on their reading journey.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit nidirect website for more information or watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel.
  2. View photos from the Department of Education in our Flickr collection.
  3. Media enquiries to the Department of Education’s Communications Team on Tel: 028 9127 9207. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.